The Conquest of Dacia
by: M. Pomponius Lupus
1. Prologue (by Gn. Dionysius Draco Invictus)

Decebalus, once king of the dense forest region known as Dacia, stood atop a high hill, looking out over the plains, almost entirely dark save for the small stripe of light at the horizon, of the sun that was setting. There was a slight, cool breeze, that carried the stench of rotting corpses, and the smell of burning edifices of the city he was gazing down upon: Sarmizegethusa. Had there been an accidental observant, Decebalus would have seemed proud, standing there with his arms crossed, in battle armour, and gaze that was both energetic and fatherly. His long, red hair and likewise beard accentuated his pale blue eyes, and gave him the typical image of the warrior king his people had revered and admired. Now, all of this was gone. There was no pride to be found in his eyes – there was disappointment, the sense of defeat, and ultimately, the longing for death. Never had he suspected that he would long to enter that eternal blackness. He didn't care what his priests and his superstituous soldiers believed. For him, there was only one life, and he had failed to pass the test. This was perhaps the only true negative feeling that kept plaguing him: not the death of his citizens, the destruction of all he had fought for, but the deep feeling of failure, tearing apart his insides like a Spartan fox. His priests would have told him, loud-mouthed, arrogant and ignorant, that this was a punishment of the gods, but he knew better. It was, quite simply, the law of the forest, which he had experienced ever since he was a small boy, and witnessed the wild animals slaughter each other in order to protect their own species.

He had known that Domitianus was a weak, unstable sort of emperor without honour, who had owed his pointless existence to a complicated mixture of tyranny, luck and fortune. Nerva had been an old man, barely worth the challenge. Traianus, however, was a different sort of character. From the moment of his crossing of the Danube, Decebalus had known that this was the opponent he was destined to fight. Now, it was appearent that Traianus had won. His city was sacked, and he knew that within a decade, the Romans' hunger for gold would have plundered the entire country. He cared little for what happened to its inhabitants, but felt truly sad for what was going to become of the wide plains, the clear mountain streams and the dense, dark green forests with their morning chillness. He knew that this was no country for the Romans to live in: it was too cold, too humid, too savage. But he suspected that their appetite for conquest would keep them here awhile.

With a sigh, he came to the same conclusion for the umpteenth time. He could stay here, and wait for the imperial soldiers to come and arrest him. Being aware of what had happened to former opponents of the Roman empire – Vercingetorix, to name an example – he refused to suffer the humiliating fate of being subjected to the degrading position of a slave, and to eventually die in the arena under the vicious claws of a pack of predators, and the bloodthirsty cries of ten thousand depraved Roman commoners. No, his ultimate victory would lie in committing suicide. Traianus would be disappointed to have him dead already, before he could offer him as a toy to the people in his numerous arenae. Almost grinningly, in the sense only men do when they are at their wit's end, he unsheathed his short dagger, and untied his chest armour, revealing his muscular torso, covered with sweat and dirt from the battle. His heart was pounding loudly and wildly. Decebalus closed his eyes, and did not give in to the sudden longing of starting to pray, or waiting for a sudden miracle to happen – there were no gods, and no miracles happened in this murky land. Then, with a quick and decisive move, almost instinctively, he thrust the cold metal blade into his own heart.

He fell to his knees, his mouth ajar, being unable to produce a sound. The liquid, burning pain rose up his throat and numbed his limbs. The end, he kept thinking, this is the end. His malfunctioning ears heard footsteps and cries coming from inside the forest, behind his back. He saw black spots float before his eyes, that became increasingly numerous. The cries and sounds grew louder, and the second he died, he realised that they were real, and belonged to Traianus' soldiers. Decebalus died freely, and peacefully.

2. Decebalus' obedience (by Gn. Dionysius Draco Invictus)

Four years earlier in Sarmizegethusa, Marcus Ulpius Traianus, emperor of Rome, entered the royal palace, accompanied by a few of his elite guards, while a hundred or so soldiers were waiting outside on the square. Many people had gathered on the relatively small square – for Roman measures – to gaze at the legion that looked vigilantly about. Traianus didn't sense much hostility, but rather a greedy curiosity that bordered on the suspicious. Without looking back at the crowd and his men, he and his guard walked up the stairs. There were four guards standing before the gate, that was majestic but crude. Beyond the gate, there was a large area of grass, and the palace itself was clearly visible due to its two towers. The building was made out of large stones, and reminded Traianus of Apollodoros' stories – the Greek had namely been in Mykene, where he'd seen ruins that were somewhat similar to the architecture here. Of course, this was mainly Celtic in style, and also showed some similarities to the houses in which a lot of common Gallo-Romans lived. The Dacian royal guards, who had not fought in the war, visible through their stainless cuirasses and blinking helmets, looked at the elder emperor and his guards sternly, as if they were statues. The guards raised their short, irregular blades.

"Let us pass," the emperor said calmly. He was wearing a military outfit similar to that of his companions, but it was clear to everyone that he was in command. He was almost fifty years old, but unlike many of his peers, did not yet show signs of corpulence, and did not indulge in an easy, blissful laziness, nor was he power-greedy or overly ambitious. After all, he had no reason to be: he was emperor of Rome.

Traianus' own guards also raised their weapons. The crowd held its breath, but the Dacian guards knew they had no choice. They could die heroically, or let the Roman princeps pass and seek the treacherous king Decebalus. The Dacian soldiers looked at one another, and the foremost one finally barked a few words, upon which the gates were flung open. Two of the guards escorted the Roman emperor and his small corps inside. On his left side, there was an ornamented well, and on his right side, a few trees were visible, their leaves many-coloured and some of them crumpled. It was a windless day, and some brown leaves lay scattered on the grass, under a clouded sky.

Traianus did not awfully like Dacia: the country was marshy, dark and cold. But it had also been a nuisance for the past decade, and it was very much time that the Dacian riches would not be paid for anymore by Rome's treasury or the emperor. The small party moved through the open door of the castle, and went through a corridor that went upwards to what probably was a conference room. On an ornamented throne, in a round room that was surprisingly light because of the many glassless windows, unmistakenly sat Decebalus. He made a poor impression to Traianus, and the emperor sensed the feeling was likewise. Apart from the Dacian king, three other persons were present; two women, perhaps relatives of his, and an old, weak man. The emperor stopped at a distance of about three metres, and the Dacian guards spoke to their king in a gentle, almost reasonable tone that hid their determination of a while ago. Decebalus nodded, and peered at the Roman delegation. He turned to the old man at his left side, who was leaning on a large wooden stick, and said something. Traianus' best guess was that it was a druid. The druid, who had wrinkled face like a dried apple, addressed the Romans in broken Latin:

"Travellers, the king would like to know whether or not one of you is Marcus Ulpius Traianus, the new emperor of the Roman empire."

"I am," Traianus said. The women, who had previously been occupied with other things, were now looking at him. Decebalus, understanding that Traianus had confirmed his identity, ordered his counselor the next few phrases.

"King Decebalus would like to know why you have invaded his lands, and started a brutal war campaign against a defenceless nation." The emperor grinned, and then laughed. His laughter was audible in the whole room, and everyone, even his own guards, looked a little dumbstruck.

"Tell King Decebalus that I don't have time for games. Dacia is to swear loyalty to Rome, and he's the man to confirm this. Tell him I am sorry Domitianus is dead."

In a half-reconciliatory tone, as if he was going to be hit, the elder man explained himself to the king. The Dacian king, red-haired and looking as though he had been cut out of rock, wasn't laughing, but his ice blue eyes gave away that he was in some sense amused. He neutrally declared his next few sentences, which were a bit longer than his previous. The druid faithfully and faultfully translated.

"King Decebalus says that he regrets the loss of the emperors Domitianus and Nerva, and that he is prepared to acknowledge Rome's victory in exchange for peace. He is willing to make peace with Rome if no further unwarranted invasions will be made in his lands."

"I wouldn't exactly use the term 'unwarranted' but I agree in principle."

While the old man was busy translating, Traianus ordered one of his men to hand him the necessary documents and tablets that were to be signed. Once these were handed, the rest was only pro forma. All the while, a mildly ironic atmosphere kept hanging between the two rulers, and no one could deny that both men were polite and correct, although no more than necessary.

"How long will you be guests here?" the priest then asked, after the formalities were finished, after Decebalus had asked him to say it. Traianus wasn't sure if Decebalus had really meant the word 'guest', or if he was merely jesting. "I will leave Dacia as soon as possible, and will only leave a few garrisons in Moesia. Rome is waiting for me."

Yes, the emperor thought, Rome. Back to the greedy merchants, the loud-mouthed orators and effiminate teachers. The bloody arenas of entertainment, the Senate's den, and most of all, the imperial circus.

3.Traianus in Doubt (by M. Pomponius Lupus)

Upon crossing the border between the Imperium and Dacia, an eagle flew two circles over the army and then set course for Dacia. Traianus ordered his men to wait, and augures were sent for, but they seemed to be in distress – clearly, they were unable to come up with a uniform interpretation, which was never a good sign. After a heavy quarrel they came up with two possible interpretations; some thought it to be a sign of Iuppiter who was pleased with the emperor and sent an eagle to the area as if to say: it is safe; "this is now Rome's territory." But others insisted that Iuppiter was warning Traianus, warning him that the Dacian threat wasn’t over yet and that those who seem obedient are sometimes least obedient of all. Traianus stayed calm and showed not the smallest sign of fear or doubt, as he was trained to do when being in front of his troops, but in his heart the seeds of doubt were planted. They continued to head for Rome and celebrations were held to honour the achievement of their emperor. He soon forgot about the omen and considered the job done: surely that Decebalus wouldn’t dare to stand up against mighty Rome again. Even a cunning barbarus such as him should be intelligent enough to accept the supremacy of the Roman army.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. State business occupied Traianus almost fully. Despite being somewhat stressed, and concerned about his safety – and that of the Empire - he couldn't complain: at least he had reached a modus vivendi with the Senate, and the people were in general pleased. Festivities were held once in a while, his family lived its usual, rather tranquil life and the economic life had its usual ups and downs.

Three years after his return, however, the first reports concerning unrest and small raids in Moesia and Dalmatia by an unknown band of warriors reached Rome. That very night Traianus had a dream in which he could see the eagle again, spreading its wings over his army, screechingly flying into the sky and setting course for Dacia, to the very heart of the forest kingdom, the palace of Decebalus, where he could see him leaning over a map, and sending messengers to nearby kings, suggesting a revolt against Rome. Upon firmly planting a knife in the region of Moesia he looked up and Traianus stared straight into the pale blue eyes that burnt with a fervent hate towards all Romans. After having awoken from these visions he knew that the battle was far from over and that he had underestimated Decebalus. Perhaps it had been a mistake to let him live after the first war, but Traianus respected him in a way. During the reign of Domitianus he had caused much difficulty and even heavily defeated a Roman army. Eventually Domitianus bought his good behavior – as was his habit – and tried to ignore him for a while; as if that would help. During the so-called peace Decebalus had strengthened his armies and continued to plunder the border regions, possibly to challenge and lure the Romans into battle. Domitianus, of course, never seized that opportunity and Nerva… Well, Nerva was more concerned with his own safety within the palace in Rome than with the Empire. His old age did not really provide for much adventuring either. In short, it was up to Traianus to solve the matter and so he did, or so he thought. Despite being a man of the military, he did not believe in unnecessary conquest or blood being spilt. The reports could just be nothing, his generals said, could be just a band of pillagers without a leader plundering houses. Traianus suspected them to be trying to persuade him into not marching to Dacia again, although the wealthy equestrians and patricians tried to push the palace to undertake measures, under the pretext of not allowing barbarian raids to disrupt the peace and honour of the Empire, their true reason being, of course, the abundant gold that was present in Dacia.

While thinking of all these various things, he sat on his seat of honour amidst his generals, who were looking at him, some hopefully, some in despair, others absently, grown fat and lazy over the years. "So," he said, glancing over the faces of the military men, "you know what kind of king Decebalus really is. Otherwise, you wouldn't be so afraid to attack him, or you wouldn't try to tell me that the bands of warriors raiding Moesia have no leader, which is absolute nonsense." The generals looked displeased. "Emperor, I–" one general, the elder Marcus Claudius Falco, began, before being interrupted by a lazy gesture from Traianus. "Don't try to talk me into letting this pass just like that. I'm not Domitianus, and you bloody well know it. Have a little faith in yourselves. We already defeated Decebalus once, and we can do it again, this time for good," he said, pounding with his fist on the arms of the chair to stress his last words. "Teaching Decebalus a lesson is one thing; conquering his land and killing him is another," Servius Cornelius said. He was a hard-working, competent general who had previously served under Traianus himself in Germania Inferior. "Absolutely," the emperor agreed, when the other generals nodded in agreement, "you are without doubt right. That is why I will direct all possible forces against Dacia in the next campaign, and make this a swift and ferocious operation. I hereby order to increase the number of legions to thirty, and order each of you to begin to prepare for war." The generals mumbled, but they had to obey their superior, of course. "Oh, and someone fetch me Apollodoros. He might come in handy." After the generals had left the room, he idly thought that this might somehow have been meant to be. Perhaps the gods were testing him. Perhaps it was his fate to conquer Dacia and defeat Decebalus. Perhaps it would be his fate to die in the deep, lonely forests of Dacia, and suffer a defeat more horrible than Varus. He shook his head, as if to shake these thoughts away from him. No, Romans did not have pleasant experiences with forests.

4. Back to Dacia (by P. Dionysius Mus)

Emperor Traianus accepted his fate and began preparations for a new war campaign against the Dacian king Decebalus. In order to bring the total of legions up to thirty, as the Caesar had ordered, two new legions were formed and named after him: Legio XXX Ulpia and Legio II Traiana. Wherever an army could be missed, it was sent to the emperor so he could build a force large enough for this campaign. While he was making his preparations, Apollodoros entered the room. Apollodoros of Damascus was a Greek engineer and architect who worked in Traianus' service and who had always been well respected. He was a wise and skilled man, and Traianus knew he needed him very badly on this campaign.

"Apollodorus", the emperor said, "I will need the best of your talents very soon. I will start a new campaign in Dacia against King Decebalus. I am sure we will need, next to our greatest military abilities and discipline, also the best engineering skills in order to let this campaign succeed".

"Of course", Apollodoros answered, "And I thank you, o mighty Caesar, for your trust in my skills. I will do my very best to live up to your expectations".

The emperor gave him the necessary information and tasks, and Apollodoros took off to begin his own preparations. Since much of Dacia was covered with forests, they would certainly need a lot of engineering skills to clear the way. Emperor Traianus and Apollodoros of course remembered the defeat of general Varus under emperor Augustus in the Teutoburg Forest many years ago.

"This time something like this can and will not happen", Apollodoros thought. So he decided to show those barbarians a nice piece of Roman engineering in their own forests! He built a special roadway through the Iron Gate – the Iron Gate was the last gorge of the Djerdap gorge system on the Danube River, dividing the Carpathian and Balkan mountains. It was about 2 miles (3 km) long and 530 feet (162 m) wide, with towering rock cliffs – and a mighty bridge across the river Danube, so the armies would be able to march at great speed. And of course they did! Traianus had assembled almost 11 legions and marched at high speed towards the Dacian border. He crossed the river Danube and penetrated the Dacian territory wide and deep, with his great Roman army.

A few days later they camped on a rather quiet and well defended spot, and the emperor called for a meeting with his generals.

"Well, my friends", he started, "I hope all of you have seen that your fear before our departing was unnecessary. The Dacian forces are scattered, and thus easier for us to defeat them in battle. But still we haven't got a single trace of King Decebalus, have we?"

"No, O Caesar, we have not yet found something or someone who could lead us to Decebalus." Thus spoke Servius Cornelius, and he continued: "In my opinion we should continue our campaign the same way we have done it until now. If we chase and kill many of his Dacian forces, he will be forced to leave his shelter and surrender."

Marcus Claudius Falco immediately replied: "But this could make this a very long and expensive campaign. I am not sure we –"

"Nonsense," the emperor interrupted, "I am sure we are doing the right thing here, and I am also convinced that it won't take very long anymore before Decebalus will show up. He is a man of dignity and he will not seek shelter forever. But, Falco, you are indeed right that this is an expensive campaign. However, when we succeed, the enormous riches of the Dacian mines come into our possession, and I am sure these will cover our expenses!"

5. Messengers and Preparations (by Q. Claudius Locatus Barbatus, M. Moravius Horatius Piscinus)

The day after the meeting they continued their campaign throughout Dacia. And indeed, after a few weeks King Decebalus requested to meet emperor Traianus.

Messengers of Decebalus came to the Roman camp. "We are legates of King Decebalus, ruler of Dacia. We want to see your commander!", they shouted. The Roman guards informed Traianus. The legates were allowed to enter.

"What does your king want?" asked Traianus as soon as they entered the central tent.

"Peace, but in the Roman way," they replied.

"In the Roman way? What do you mean?"

"Look around, emperor. In every Roman provincia the people are oppressed, their leaders captured or killed. King Decebalus wants to allow you into his lands, but he is the ruler. You will be here as a guest, but not as an emperor. We will not pay any taxes or support your conquests. But you can come and leave as you please – self-evidently, without your army. This proposition is not debatable, take it or leave."

"Who are you to command the Roman emperor?" Traianus was furious, but immediately he stopped talking and started thinking. His generals were surprised he even considered the Dacian proposal. They didn't know him like that. But Traianus was thinking of the eagle he saw when marching towards Rome, now almost four years ago. Finally he spoke: "Who will guarantee that your king would leave our lands in peace if I accept this unfair treaty?"

"No-one will, as 'your lands', as you say it, aren't yours. They belong to other people. 'Your lands' are the plains of Rome. Our king will not start a war, but he will support any rebellion against your forces, Roman."

Traianus said: "Go and come back in three days, then I'll give you my answer." His generals were extremely surprised and immediately tried to convince the emperor to deny this proposal.

The legates of King Decebalus left the Roman camp. Traianus was angry at his generals. "Never show any discord to an enemy!" he shouted and went back to his own tent. A few moments later Roman messengers entered the camp to see the emperor.

Marcus Claudius Falco was called to the emperor the next morning. He went immediately. The emperor looked very tired, but spoke encouraging words. "Within two days another eleven legions will join us. I want you to take ten legions. March to the east. Take Apollodorus with you. After one day you should see a massive rock plateau lying in front of you. Build a fortified camp on it. You have to depart this night, so go and prepare yourself."

Marcus Claudius Falco was surprised by Traianus' words, but did as was told and prepared his army. Traianus gave him some more explanation, and at midnight they marched into the wilderness. Only one legion was still in the Roman camp to protect Traianus.

Two days later the legates returned. Traianus received them.

"What is your final answer, emperor?" they asked.

"I decided to–" he stopped and looked at the five legates. They were very strong men, dressed in colorful outfits. They were brutally looking at the emperor. He knew when he accepted their proposal he'd never have peace with them. Traianus continued: "– reject your proposal. I now ask you to go. Don't stay any longer on Roman territory. Go and leave these lands immediately." The legates didn't reply, but went and left the camp.

"So far for part one of the plan", thought Traianus, "I hope the reinforcements will arrive soon!"

In the evening a messenger came, with terrifying news. "Emperor, the reinforcements have been attacked! No more than two legions of them are left, and they are heading this way as quick as possible!" Traianus was terrified. If the reinforcements reached the camp, it meant that he had only three legions left to protect him. Without them he only had one legion.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the trumpets. Tiberius Claudius Maximus of the Decurian cavalry led the nuntius before Trajanus. "Ave Caesar," they exclaimed together.

"Renuntiate."

All the reports were favorable, for a change. The first column of legiones had passed through the Transylvanian Iron Gates and seized the oppidia at Costeti, Blindaru, and Piatra Rosie with little resistance. The second column had passed through the Red Tower, climbed through the Jiu River Valley as far as Bumbesti. In the Castra Traiana the Legio II Adiutrix and Legio IV Flavia Felix, together with eight Praetorian cohorts and the vexillatio Legio VI Ferrata, were now joined by the vexillationes of three other legiones. The combined force amounted to four legiones, with additional cavalry and auxilleries. Additional columns were now advancing from Bran, Bratocea, and Oitus to secure Traianus' rear area. Claudius Maximus and the tesserarii had reported no serious contacts lay outside the camp. The frumentarii gave reports further afield that the Dacians were gathering. Traianus ordered his army forward, marching on Tilisca and then on to Calpina.

Diurapneus, the Braveheart Decebalus, had busied himself with gathering his own forces beneath his banner of the lion-headed serpent. "All, facing Death, still have to bend. It makes no difference whether to die as an old hunchback or as a younger man. Yet, Lion better says 'good-bye' over a Dog in chains..." Before Traianus could gather together his advancing columns before Sarmisegetuza, Decebalus hoped to defeat one column with his combined force, then turn on the other columns each in turn. He knew that if he could defeat the column led by Traianus that the others would retire towards the Red Tower and the Iron Gates where he had attacked Traianus only a few years earlier. Thus Decebalus awaited Traianus just beyond Calpina.

6. The Battle (by M. Moravius Horatius Piscinus, M. Scribonius Curio Britannicus)

Traianus addressed his legati with encouragement, then pronounced the order to set his army in motion. "Commilitiones, proelium committemus. Signa tolle!"

The Praefectus Castrorum began barking orders. "Arma expedi!" The call was taken up in each legio, the Centurio Primus Pilus of the First Cohort of each legio passing on the orders to the other centuriones. The optiones were already rousing their men: "Exi! Celerete...' when the tribunus militum M. Annius Verus first heard the orders. Confusion, cursing, and shouting filled the air as the troops marched out of camp into column formation, then sat awaiting the next unit to form behind them.

Just that morning Verus was reading a letter from his father. The older Marcus Annius wrote of the honor given him by the emperor, naming him a Frater Arvalis. Verus' father was always seeking such honors. Even though he could never hope to attain a consul position, among the Fratres he could at least mingle with Volusii whose gens had provided consules a generation earlier and were friends with Tacitus, the consul of 850 AUC. Ever mindful of his own position, and hopeful for his son, the elder Annius Verus scolded his son for seeking out copies of Iunius Iuvenalis that were beginning to circulate. Instead he advised his son to read Tacitus' recently published 'Histories' and cultivate social refinement. Already his father was seeking a suitable wife to advance young Verus' career. He would not approve of his son bringing along Martial's poems to the distant borders of the Empire, yet tolerated his son's interest, as Consul Plinius Caecilius had himself sponsored Martial and because the Spaniard poet was now already dead. Not so the troublesome friend of Martial, Iuvenalis, who was now living in Rome once more, recalled by Tacitus during his consulship.

Annius Verus, little distinguished in name or family, had been assigned command of the Ninth Cohort composed mostly of new recruits. The tribunus laticlavius snubbed him as socially inferior. The Legatus considered him too young and inexperienced, never addressing him in the legio's councils, and always insisting that Nunius Sabinius accompany him. Annius Verus may not have courted friends that would meet with his father's approval, but he too had a gift for seeking out the right men with whom to be acquainted. Sabinius was the centurio pilus prior of the Ninth Cohort. A veteran having served under Agricola, he could impress young Verus with his personal acquaintance of both Tacitus and Iuvenalis. He had been reassigned to Rome as Trajanus was raising new levees for the First Dacian War and could delight Verus with eyewitness accounts of the prosecution of Marius Priscus, reciting from memory the orations of Plinius Caecilius and Tacitus. Yet he was an illiterate man, the son of a freedman, whose rustic manners and gruff speech somehow endeared this battle-hardened veteran all the more to Verus. In the field there was no doubt that it was Sabinius who would actually command the cohort.

The series of orders then came down the line. Verus as nominal commander repeated these. But it was Sabinius on whom everyone was focused. From a distance ahead came the shout, "In acie constitue!"

Then along the column came the next command that Verus repeated, "Aciem dilate!" The cohort began to wheel out of column and it next became Sabinius barking orders, "Aciem triplicem instrue!" The cohort fell into three lines. "Accelere, mi leones," shouted Sabinius, depending on his fratres Mithrae to set an example for the new recruits to hurry into formation. "Dirige frontem!" Sabinius cracked his baton on the shields of the front line to dress their line, the others followed. Then he marched over to take up his position on the right of the front century. When the call came down, "Langa ad dextram!" Sabinius called out, "Ad gladium...CLINA!" The whole cohort turned to the right, then was advanced a little way to extend the line, until Sabinius again called out, "Ad scutum...CLINA!" The Ninth Cohort, along with the whole of the legio, together with the other legiones forming both lines of Traianus' aciem, then turned to face the Dacians.

At the center was Traianus issuing his commands. A quiet murmur by Traianus of "Equites ad latera dispone" was enough to begin the series of commands that sent Claudius Maximus and his Decurian cavalry off to the right flank of the line. To the praefectus praetori came orders too, "Praesidio castris relinques, et hoc loc subsidia colloca," setting the camp guards and placing the army's reserve around Traianus. Then Traianus gave the order, "Signum proelii da" and in reply came the call, "Vexillium propone!" Traianus' flag was raised to signal the commencement of the engagement.

From both armies a shout echoed across the field as they faced one another. The Dacians then charged forward in a furius run. Traianus only whispered, "Proelium inite." Verus could hear the next series of commands in the distance, shouts to the velites, "Tela conice," let loose a flight of missiles crashing into the Dacians. The cohorts in the front line of the legio were advised, "Exspectate ad teli coniectum hostes venire," that they would wait for the enemy to draw nearer before releasing their own pila. The Ninth was in the second rank of the front legio, stationed at Traianus' center. Sabinius called out, "Ordenam servate. Omissis pilis gladiis rem gerete. Gladium EDUCE!" He did not want his raw recruits to become too nervous and begin throwing their pila too quickly, thus casting them into the rear of the cohort to the front. Instead he had them draw swords to await the initial assault. Verus stood behind the cohort along with some veterani, stationed to watch the rear of the green soldiers and stop them should they decide to break and run. Verus noticed the mist begin to rise at the feet of his men who stood in the cool morning air.

Stichius and another veteran knelt as they chatted and observed the rear of the cohort. "Vide isti..."

"Quis, iste laneum latusculum habet?"

"Me Hercule, simul iste cunnus mulae meiet diffussus in aestu."


Verus leaned forward, thrusting his fists up into his own bladder, lest, whether from laughter or fear, he too might pass his water as the Dacians poured upon the front line.

"Steady, tribunus," spoke Stichius, "you may yet gain a fine young bride. You wouldn't want to ruin the chance of another Marcus Annius being born some day."

"Di nos servent."

Verus could only agree in silence with his veterani as he heard the next command shouted out from his Legatus, "Signa promove!"

An unwelcome shower fell upon the Dacian lines; here and there, men fell, dying the worst death that could be called a warrior's death. Others took minor wounds, but stayed in the front lines, their expressions grim, determined to fight on. Interestingly, the Romans did not advance, stopping once the front cohort had released their pila. Decebalus worried over this, wondering whether the Romans were reorganising their lines, or waiting for the other column to continue on the journey to Sarmigethuza. If it was so, then Decebalus would need to defeat Trajan quickly, and hope that he could find a good position to defeat the other column before they reached it themselves. Decebalus opted to wait a little longer, to see what strategy Trajan had chosen to use. Trajan looked about him, attempting to feel the general atmosphere of the brave men of his army. Although they had had a long march recently, they did not seem tired or fatigued. A good thing, for they had much more work ahead of them.

The clarion call sounded through the army and through his body - how sweet it felt; it brough back memories of the previous Dacian campaign. The great army advanced, and Trajan was once again reminded why his was the greatest nation of all. He felt proud that the men under his command were true sons of Rome.
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